FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, February 10, 2012
For Information Contact:
Four Men Sentenced for Conspiracy and Bribery in Scheme
To Dominate District of Columbia’s Taxicab Industry
- Scheme Involved $270,000 in Illegal Payments -
WASHINGTON - Yitbarek Syume, Berhane Leghese, and Amanuel Ghirmazion were sentenced today, and Abdul Kamus was sentenced on Monday, February 6, for their roles in a large-scale, long-term scheme to corrupt the taxicab industry in Washington, D.C.
All four defendants were sentenced by the Honorable Paul L. Friedman in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Syume was sentenced to 41 months in prison. Leghese and Kamus were each sentenced to 12 months, and Ghirmazion was sentenced to eight months of incarceration.
The sentencings were announced by U.S. Attorney Ronald C. Machen Jr., James W. McJunkin, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, and Cathy L. Lanier, Chief of the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD).
Syume, 53, of Silver Spring, Md., pled guilty in March 2011 to two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, and mail fraud. Upon completion of his prison term, Syume will be placed on 36 months of supervised release.
Kamus, 55, also of Silver Spring, Md., pled guilty in April 2010 to conspiracy to commit bribery and two counts of bribery. Upon completion of his prison term, he will be placed on 24 months of supervised release.
Leghese, 49, of Arlington, Va., and Ghirmazion, 56, of Washington, D.C., pled guilty in March 2011 to conspiracy to commit bribery. Upon completion of their prison terms, they will be placed on 24 months of supervised release.
In connection with their guilty pleas, the defendants admitted to conspiring to bribe public officials in an effort to obtain multi-vehicle taxicab company licenses in a scheme that lasted from September 2007 until September 2009. Kamus admitted to simultaneously paying bribes in an attempt to influence legislation that would increase the value of those licenses. In sum, the four were attempting to corner the taxicab market in the District of Columbia. This scheme involved approximately $270,000 in illegal payments and attempted illegal payments.
More than two dozen people have been convicted in the overall investigation, including Ted G. Loza, the former chief of staff for a District of Columbia Council member. Loza, now 46, was sentenced in June 2011 to a prison term of eight months on two charges of accepting illegal gratuities and one charge of making a false statement to the District of Columbia Board of Elections and Ethics. In connection with his guilty plea, Loza admitted that in June and July of 2009, while working as the chief of staff, he received $1,500 in cash payments from Kamus.
“These prosecutions demonstrate our resolve to fighting public corruption and protecting the interests of the District of Columbia’s taxpayers,” said U.S. Attorney Machen. “These four defendants, along with others convicted in this investigation, attempted to take over the taxicab industry in the District of Columbia through bribery and other illegal acts. Not only did they fail in their scheme but now they will pay the consequences for their actions in prison.”
“The FBI will hold accountable those who use bribery as a way to accomplish illegal acts for their own personal gain,” said Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin. “The sentencings today are significant as they represent the last in a ring of corruption that contributes to the erosion of the public’s confidence in our government.”
In announcing the sentencings, U.S. Attorney Machen, Assistant Director in Charge McJunkin, and Chief Lanier commended the work of the FBI Special Agents on the case, as well as MPD Sergeant Andrew Struhar, Detective Joseph Sopata and Agent Elliott Taylor of the District of Columbia Office of the Inspector General. They also acknowledged the efforts of the staff of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including Paralegals Jeannette Litz and Jared Forney, Joshua Ellen, of the Litigation Technology Unit, and Assistant U.S. Attorney John Crabb Jr. and former Assistant U.S. Attorney John Griffith, who investigated and prosecuted the case.